June 27, 2014

3 Project Management Best Practices for Content Marketing

The term content marketing is ubiquitous in both B2C and B2B organizations. According to the Content Marketing Institute’s recent report, 90 percent of B2C marketers were using content marketing in 2013. Even though the tactic is widely used, only 34 percent of B2C organizations – and 42 percent of B2B companies – believe they are effective at content marketing. Some of that disparity can be attributed to talent, but project management surely plays a part as well. Unsurprisingly, the CMI report supports this assertion: 60 percent of organizations that rated their content marketing as effective had a documented strategy. 85 percent of the most effective organizations also had a manager overseeing the process. As these data show, certain factors correlate with positive results, and while content strategy will always feature variations between organizations and industries, certain project management best practices can be applied.

It’s not all about methodology

“For the most part our lives are still Waterfall,” said Rob Patey, Director of Marketing at Workzone.

In referencing a more sequential method for project management that still leans heavily on dependent work, Patey is dispelling the notion that every department is working in Agile or Scrum parameters. And he’s right: waterfall still has a strong influence on content marketing. For reference, see the eternal debate between graphic designers/developers and writers. Designers need the copy to place in the design, while writers need an aesthetic concept before they can start crafting the words to complement it. It’s nearly a chicken or an egg debate, but this situation showcases the inability of either party to simply work on their aspect of the project before another section is done. The work needs to happen in a certain order.

That’s not to say that Agile hasn’t had an effect on content marketing; characteristics of this less linear framework have mixed with Waterfall in many marketing departments. Specifically for startups and agencies, timelines prohibit putting off testing until the end of a project. When creating multiple landing pages for a new campaign, organizations will test one or two as soon as they reach completion, rather than stalling until the entire troupe of pages has been completed. Additionally, cross-functional teams have become more common, which has led to increased collaboration across departments.

Software is more important than ever

Whether a blog post, infographic, or video, content projects often have numerous tasks that must be completed by different specialists. To keep everything manageable, companies employ project management software to better handle the production line that is content marketing. But the options are myriad in the project management vertical, so which should a content marketing manager choose? And will one system do the entire job?

Since content marketing mostly happens in a sequential fashion, it makes sense to use a solution that visualizes the process. Many content marketers prefer Trello, a free platform that utilizes a Kanban-style board where tasks are represented as cards. Each card also contains task-specific information. As tasks are completed, users move them to new columns to signify progress made on the project. Software like Trello is popular for content marketing because the initial interface is simple and allows managers to gain updates on multiple projects with a single glance at the board.

Although many project managers choose such software to organize the moving parts in their department, it’s also common practice to use other software at the department level for management.

“Some software works well at establishing a clear path to success from A to Z, which is great for higher level executives,” says Aubrey Flynn, Executive Director of Digital Strategy and Content for Commonground. “Others provide a greater focus on tasks, which will help project managers manage resources.”

For example, a group of writers and their editor may use Trello to map out and update projects with their manager, but use Google Drive for sharing and editing specific pieces of content. In a client facing business, a second project management system may be used to make working with clients easier, or to match a system the client already utilizes.

Always look for bottlenecks

“Typically, content gets bottlenecked at the top of organizations. C-suite executives, ever mindful of their brand, can overthink minutia and details,” said Content Strategist Natalie Bidnick.

Depending on your management’s organization structure, your content projects may not make it all the way to the C-level, but time should always be allocated for approvals by upper management, or clients when working in an agency setting. These individuals are usually quite particular about branding, and their perspective can add a valuable counterpoint to that of the marketer who’s been narrowly focused on execution for the past week. However, upper management can work on a different timetable; their priorities are not necessarily those of the project manager’s, so prepare for a slowdown when it’s time to get high-level approval.

Managing content projects is an ongoing process, which lends itself to constant iteration – another example of Agile’s influence – but using these guidelines can help make creating great content easier. At least from a managerial perspective. How do you manage content projects? Have any favorite tools? Share some insight in the comments.

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